Back in the dim and distant, I had a few issues of Hellblazer. To be honest, I was too young for them. Not in the don’t look at the nudity and smoking and blood and slashy knives and naughty words kind of way, but in an I don’t get it kind of way. I was barely twenty, and the comic was just about four years old at this stage. I wasn’t ready.

Skip to about... Ooh, five years ago. I happened to catch sight of a cover to Hellblazer #300 (the last ongoing issue) on Tinternet. And I thought, wait a tick, that bloke looks familiar. It wasn’t till a while later that I realised it was the end to something I had started long before.

Skip to last year. I was doing the Thursday Shop, otherwise known as Comics Wednesday in the States. (With the time zone as it is, I shop for new comics on a Thursday.) What do I see? A new collection of the first nine issues of Hellblazer, which may or may not be considered Jamie Delano’s best work for the title. He did pretty much invent it, off the back of an arc in the Swamp Thing.

I was older, I was more cynical, I was deep into comics and constantly looking for ‘new’. Bored of the usual straight white American dude saving the world, my weekly Thursday Shop consisted of titles like Saga, NextWave, Captain Marvel, Trillium, Young Avengers, and the like. Faced in this climate with the prospect of finally getting to grips with John Constantine, I thought I might as well.

It’d be more accurate to say that John Constantine got to grips with me. The sweeping story arcs, the way he was so down-to-Earth Scouse, the one-liners that covered a desperate lurch for salvation, the constant threat of losing everything if he just let the facade slip enough for people to realise he didn’t actually have all the answers; it was intoxicating. I went through nothing less than five issues in a sitting. Sod work and getting back late from a lunch break - there were literally hundreds of issues on my iPad, goddammit, and John wasn’t going to read himself (except that one time with Ellie and the priest with the talking door).

As poor John lurched from one skin of the teeth pyrrhic victory to the next, I slowly fell in love with the comic. So many issues, so many artists, so many writers, so many subtle differences in how they saw his character - there was a never-ending Pandora’s Box of adventures. Once it was opened, and I ripped through three hundred issues, I realised that one thing had indeed been trapped inside: Hope. All I wanted was to believe that there was more, that what transpired in Hellblazer #300 (the last scene of which I still debate), was not the end. It couldn’t be, right? There had to be more.

I found graphic novels. I found specials. I found DC’s attempt to fit him into their Justice League line-up. Sadly, for me, these DCverse comics were just not right. They did not gel. It was the fact that John was no longer the focus of the book - now it was him against a pantheon of DC people, set against DC places and names. Gone were my trips to Liverpool, or Australia, or Northern Ireland. Gone were my Kit, Epiphany, Gemma. In their places were things I did not know because they were not of Hellblazer; the comics took me twice as long to read, as I spent equal parts reading the comic, and searching Wikipedia to find out who the apparently famous person was that John was up against. It became a chore - like their New 52 Constantine title. It wasn't John; it was a shiny ret-conned blonde bloke who occasionally talked like him, but shared none of the actual real secret of magic with him at all.

It was not my John.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Let me just say in my defence: my favourite Doctors are Two, Five, Nine, Ten, and the beginnings of Eleven. It’s true that I have turned my back on New Who, but that is not down to the change in actor or personality, it’s down to my hate-hate relationship with Steven Moffat’s writing. I like Star Trek the original series and The Next Generation, while my first love is DS9. I liked the 2009 reboot of Star Trek (Into Darkness not so much), because in my head it was a compromise - if you liked the original and not the reboot, the original had not been overwritten. Conversely, if you like the reboot but had tried to watch the original but not liked it, you still had your own version that did not overwrite the original. That’s why I’m perfectly fine with Into Darkness failing on a lot of levels; Wrath of Khan still happened (and is still better), just in the other timeline. Long and short: I like change. Change is good - mostly.

So back to John Constantine.

Still reeling from the ending of Hellblazer, and finding that there were no more issues, I heard a rumour that Warner Brothers were looking at making a TV series called Constantine. I was intrigued. Then I was worried; would they be able to pull off some of the storylines from Hellblazer? Were they even going to bother? And who the bloody hell were they going to get to play John? Because if it was another Keanu Reeves, pretending to be English or not, then I was definitely out.

Skip to late last year. I had seen new series come along - caught up with Game of Thrones, tried watching The Flash (no-go - who wants yet another secret identity secretly in love with his best friend but can’t tell her oh and did I mention they stuffed his mother in a fridge to give him daddy issues about rescuing him from prison? Blah blah blah.), tried Arrow (yeesh - but I have been told to ignore season one and head straight to season two. Seeing as I stuck with it for about seven episodes and then decided I was done torturing myself, I don’t know if I’ll bother) and Forever (really good, but in such a nice quiet way, it’s sure to get cancelled). Gotham started, and I’ve enjoyed that more and more. Agents of SHIELD continues to improve, so I’m glad I stuck with that one. Supernatural has come back with a triumphant tenth season, which I’m still addicted to and still enjoying. So what was I going to get with Constantine?

Firstly, the pilot was pretty bloody shaky. I’m glad that they decided to drop the companion-cum-storyline there and go with Zed a few episodes later. However, two things struck me from the outset: one, they’d picked a winner with Matt Ryan, and two, they weren’t going to shy away from certain subject matter, even on their timeslot.

I was intrigued. They even went with one of the best story arcs from Hellblazer a few episodes later in the form of Gary Lester and the hunger demon. It was racking up to be a vast improvement, but pretty much nothing was going to stop me watching it once I’d got used to John’s somewhat clean trenchcoat (part of me is begging them to do a version of The Devil’s Trenchcoat story arc. I would die happy). They were making it a little darker without sacrificing colour; where Supernatural tends to bleed the colour out and whack up the contrast, Constantine is all about colour and bright spillage of blood and make-up. One thing I do like is the cinematography and the way the editing is handled. A lot of gore is performed offscreen for your imagination, and even if it just to get round the programming rules, it’s still a neat way for you to get your gore on without getting taken off the air. They may have changed a few elements about the characters - I thought Chas was darker in the comics, and obviously his penchant for Jack Harkness’ing his way out of permanent death is a new one. But hey, they’re rolling with it and they’re making it more interesting. Take Zed Martin, for instance. Not the bird we were given in Hellblazer, past her ‘gifted’ roots and her talents, but definitely a change for the better. They’ve developed a women on screen who, one, is not white, two, is not dependant on anybody, and three, can literally take care of herself, despite hiding that side of herself. Her attitude and the fact that she’s a capable character, instead of being just a hanger-on or a sidekick, makes me watch for her - the woman with her own life and agenda - as much as for John. Try saying that about any other series.

AngĂ©lica Celaya, then, should be headed for big things. When this series is cancelled, as inevitably all good shows are by large networks who worry too much about instant ratings gratification and not enough about long-term merchandising rights and blu-ray sales, then I look forward to seeing what she does next. Charlie Halberd, the ever-present Chas, is also going to become a staple of US TV, I hope. Harold Perrineau, as the argie-bargie angel Manny, already has a long list of telly credits under his belt (not least of all the wonderfully sublime The Unusuals), but I know he’ll be back.

Matt Ryan, though. He’s the best not-John that ever John’d. They may have had to bleach his hair and they haven’t bothered covering up his own tatts, but he fills John’s shoes like they were made for him. He was seven years old when Hellblazer first started, but that hasn’t stopped him from apparently being told by his comic-shop-owner-mate that if he gets John wrong, he runs the risk of not waking up the next day. He seems to have taken it to heart - the swagger to his walk, the shoulders that pin themselves back when he’s about to cast a spell, the sneaking-in of the network-forbidden cigarettes, the borderline dodgy/creepy look he gives people when he’s working through how to get out of the jam he’s in - he is to John Constantine what David Tennant was to the Doctor for many people. When I go back to read Hellblazer comics now? Yep - he sounds like Matt Ryan’s soft Scouse / hint of his own Welsh.

One thing I will say is that he’s Shakespeare trained. So when you ask him to act like he’s possessed by a demon and just wants to terrorise and hurt people, then that’s what you get. He is a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin kind of actor. He puts his back into every scene he’s got without having to chew scenery, often accomplishing more with a single shifty look than lines of dialogue. I cannot stress enough how much he deserves an Emmy for his performance in episode nine’s ‘Saint of Last Resorts, part 2’.

The episodes themselves do not back down: you will see kids possessed and people in the wrong place at the wrong time dying, and other people scammed into a plot twist you didn’t see coming. You will get more bodily fluids than a Farscape snot-fest. You will get John giving people lip (apparently insults like ‘wanker’ and ‘tosser’ and ‘pile of wank’ get past US censors. It makes me wonder if they know what they mean), you will get Angry!John raging at people, and Zed being quietly amazing, and Chas just trying to hold everything together. You’ll probably enjoy it, too.

Understandably, I’m upset that it’s going to get cancelled. We can vote online and petition and beg and make noise about this show as much as we like, but I know it’s going to get cancelled. Because the good shows always are. I will still keep making noise and telling NBC how much I want the show to continue, but seeing as all they look at is instant ratings, I have my doubts about it working.

My parting shot? Watch this show. Watch it before it disappears. You’ll be glad you did.

Where There's Smoke

Yeah, done some more writing. I’m still polishing my own original fiction novel, which I took to the Writer’s Workshop in York and got some very good feedback for. I’ve got some time off later this month so I’ll be working even harder on that to get it up to spec, and then it’s going out to agents.

Anyway, I digress. I’ve just completed a Supernatural and Constantine crossover story - eleven chapters - that I’m polishing as I put it up chapter by chapter.

Ladies, gentlemen, boths and neithers, I give you:

Title: Where There’s Smoke

Rating: T \ Teen and Up for adult themes, slightly horrific things that go nom-nom-nom in the dark, sinister tones, a bit of rumpy-pumpy, and John’s swearing.

Sam and Dean find an unlikely ally in the war against… library books. John Constantine? All he wants is a quiet life. That’s not the canon way though, right?

I do not own John Constantine or Supernatural (if I did, there'd be more Hellblazer and less New 52, and Crowley would have his own spin-off). I DO NOT condone smoking anything in any form. This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good. 

Dean Winchester. Sam Winchester. John Constantine. A demon or two, and maybe some faerie folk.

Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.

If you even visit the page, I thank you.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Age of Miracles

Alright? Long time no see. I’ve managed to improve my lot in life. How, you may ask. Well, let me tell you…

It mostly started a few months back. Tired of trying every agent in the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and getting rejected, I jumped at the chance of attending the 2014 Festival of Writing. I booked my Saturday, sorted two copies of the beginning of my book, and sent them ahead of me for perusal by the agent and book doctors with whom I’d booked discussion sessions.

Thing is, actually getting to York from The Sunshine Coast (A.K.A. not London) was shaping up to be a public transport nightmare. I would have to get a bus to the train station, get a train to The North, change to a taxi to get to the B&B I’d booked, and then rely on buses to get around.

After scratching my head over the possibilities of a flight from Southampton to Leeds Bradford airport, and how I was going to get to Southampton in the first place, and how to get from Leeds Bradford airport to the sodding B&B, I went with ‘fuck that’ and instead went about looking into hiring a car for the weekend.

Quite unexpectedly, I ended up buying a second hand car. A year’s tax and MOT came with it, and I was set. Literally all I had to do to get it to York and back, not a small feat at around an 600-mile round trip, was buy it some engine oil. Now that’s what I call a result.

Anyway, the festival was great. Walking into the hall and seeing all the people - the writers - waiting around just as I was doing was oddly pleasing. People were generally politely curious, happily chatty - ‘What kind of books do you write?’ - ‘Have you seen what Hodder & Stoughton are starting next year?’ - ‘What version of Scrivener do you use?’ - ‘Do you do that thing where you move the scene punchline six times before putting it back where you had it?’ - and so on. Not one person looked at me like I was a flake, someone who pretended to be ‘in the arts’ because they wanted to sound creative. It was… nice.

I don’t like to mix with people. So I didn’t. I was happy to be by myself, and have my one-to-one discussions with the agent (very exciting to hear her enthusiasm for my book) and the book doctor (who pronounced it a 9; if it’d had gone up to 10 or 11 he’d have taken it himself to hand to an agent). I was so stoked; I’d finally got a car, and it was all for booking this epic weekend for myself. I’d had professionals look at my work and decide that it was a biscuit away from being taken on by an actual agent. And to top it off, Saturday night after the festival my sister and I found a really nice pseudo Mexican place that did AMAZING chimichangas. Sorted.

And then it came to pass that my mate had a mate who had an empty top floor in his house. Yep, you’ve guessed it - I jumped at the chance of renting it. Back to no distractions, back to my own space, back to my own time and mood and feeling like I want to spend four hours writing and no-one can stop me. All the notes I got from the agent and the book doctor? Yeah, you bet I’m going to spend the next few weeks and months working on them, on my book, and turning it into an 11. I’ve spent too long sending it out and getting it turned away; this next agent on my list is going to look at this and demand the rest of the manuscript. And then it’ll all snowball into representation and a publishing deal. FINALLY.

A friend of mine once said that the year of the snake was my year. I think this year, the year of the horse, is turning out to be my year.


The end of Doctor Who

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Doctor bloody Who series 8 episode 1!

I can't. I'm done.

The more time went by after I'd seen the premiere, the more I was bothered, then enraged. Moffat set fire to a living creature and then made jokes about it as she burnt. I don't know where to start.

The humour throughout was lacking. Clara was not annoying but her ‘how dare you’ speech about not fancying the Doctor was shit. She should have said ‘how dare you I’ve seen every one of his lives and I even told him which TARDIS to steal’ (I’m not ok with the last Matt Smith ep but CONTINUITY, Moffat).

Not ok with Matt Smith calling from the past. Poor writing.

Not ok with the Doctor being racist - against Scottish people, then against English people. Stop the Scottish ‘jokes’, Moffat.  No wait - just STOP.

Not ok with so much of this ep.

I’m done. New Who is over for me. I’m not subjecting myself to this any longer, in the hope that it will get better. You win, Moffat; you’ve finally driven me away and that’s an entire household you’ve lost in terms of viewing figures.

I’m going back to the good old years of 2, 5, 9, 10 - and a few of 11. I reject your re-ordering and War Doctor (who should have been Paul McGann, you frelling twat), I reject your sad attempt at humour (aka self worship) and I reject your interpretation of the Doctor.

I’ve tried. I’ve really tried.

But I’m done.


Such as it is.

I used to have a life - things to do, places to go, people to go with, transport to get there. Now I’m stuck in a spare room with no hope of a real place, nowhere to go to because the buses don’t go there and the only people I can go with are few and far between.

How did it come to this, you may ask.

I moved home. I thought it was the best thing to do. I don’t regret leaving Hong Kong and I certainly will not be going back there. But I miss the life I had. I miss being independent and able to get to places, to do things.

I haven’t found an archery club in the nine months I’ve been back. The only good ones are out in Bumblefuck Boonieville, because that’s where the best land is. It’s also where the transport is not. Not a single bus. No train tracks. Mini buses do not exist. In fact, the only way to get there is by taxi. So here I am, looking at Nerys my compound bow, as she sits on top of someone else’s wardrobe in the room I rent, because taxis start at mortgaging your dominant hand in this country.

Pubs. I remember pubs. I remember restaurants. I remember meeting friends there every Friday night for our weekly catch-up and drinking session. I still drink on Friday nights - because I can’t go out and do those things any more.

I drink more.

I remember cinemas. Actual places where you can walk or take a bus to so you can watch a film. I still watch films, but on a 17 inch monitor. I remember John Carter being taller.

I remember having independence. I remember going anywhere I wanted and getting back when I wanted, when I could up and spend a few hours with a friend on the way home from work, or browse an Apple shop in the never-ending high street till 11pm, or stop and get cheap dinner at nearly midnight. Now I have to get the bus home because it’ll take over an hour, and all the shops shut an hour ago, and there’s nowhere open and no-one else around to go out with.

I remember being able to write. Now I dole out paint-by-numbers shit because everything is so dull and lifeless. The most fun I have these days is getting shit-faced at the weekend. Because everything is funny when you’re drunk.

But I’m moaning. I’m harping on about it all being soooo unfair, when I should be grateful for what I’ve got. I’ve got a bed and somewhere to put my bow, and I only have to take two buses to get to work in the morning. I have a job. I have friends. It’s not all as bad as it looks.

You know what? Fuck off. I’m tired of putting a brave face on it all and pretending I’m ok with keeping calm and carrying on. When is enough, enough? Where do you draw a line and say ‘this just isn’t working’? When you get home from work and you can’t even be arsed to get angry about it, that’s when.

Depression is really only anger without enthusiasm, after all.

I have dreams, you know. I’m still trying to get a book published and I’m still dreaming that next year I’ll magically have enough money to be able to move out, or even - GASP! - get a car. --One that runs!

And then I remember that every time it seems possible, something happens and I end up back at square one. No money to speak of, no life to speak of, just whatever I scribble down on virtual paper - the stuff I send to agents who don’t even finish reading it before politely declining my work.

Talked myself into a bad mood. Haven’t done that in a long time. Need to find something to take my mind off it, something to make it all go away for a little bit.

A mindless action movie, where lots of people die. Perfect. No wait - trying to watch it on a 17 inch monitor too far from your bed takes all the fun out of it.

A few hours pounding arrows into a target? Yes please. No wait - I have no club to go to, and I’m banned from using my bow in the back garden.

Write a few chapters, maybe. I’m still putting book eight together, and there’s that Doctor Who story I’ve been working on since… ooh, late last year. No wait - how do you write optimism and fun when you feel like all of that was choked out of you last week, and all you have left is the bitterness of seeing other people still produce it?

Play on my PS3 - Call of Duty: Ghosts, maybe, seeing as I’ve had it three weeks and barely got through the running-through-the-earthquake bit. No wait - it’s really hard when you’re not allowed the sound very high and you’re squinting at the 17 inch monitor across the room. And it doesn’t come closer - there’s no room for it, irony of ironies.

It’s time like these that I need Nine Inch Nails played really loudly. But I can’t do that - I get told you turn it down. I’m 37 years old, and I’m told to turn down my music because the other people in the house - who own the house - don’t want to be a party to it. You know the worst part? I can understand. If I owned the house, and someone started playing music I detested (Justin Bieber, for example), then I’ll bloody well tell them to turn it down too. It’s what you do when you own a house. But I wouldn’t know about that. What it boils down to is that I’m sitting on my bed listening to NiN through headphones to block out the world, and I feel like a petulant teenager.

Fuck it, then. I’ll have a drink. I’ll be a bear with a sore head tomorrow, but I don’t care. It’s the only out I’ve got.

No wait (and you knew this was coming) - I’ve got no vodka left and the shop shut half an hour ago. And, lest we forget, it’s kind of expensive in this country.

I’ll… just… do something else, then. If I could just think of something.